Dateline   |  November 13, 2013

'Secrets in Pleasant Grove' part 6

The prosecution’s star witness: the doctor’s own daughter, Alexis. Will the jury believe her or the doctor?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> miss somers, if you'll come forward to the clerk's desk.

>> for six years, alexis somers had been the strongest, most persistent voice that her father murdered her mother.

>> her testimony was huge.

>> under oath, alexis told the same story she told us.

>> why were you seeking information as to your mother's death?

>> because i believe my father killed her.

>> but now the defense was going to try to prove alexis wrong. in fact, they were going to question if there was a murder at all. and they would start by using some of the accusing daughter's own words. remember alexis ' claim that her mother was feeling fine just before she died? well, it turns out that wasn't what she said at her mom's funeral.

>> when i last spoke to my mom, she was happy. she wasn't feeling -- she was feeling a little sick but --

>> she was feeling a little sick. that's what you said?

>> i don't remember saying that she was feeling a little sick. i remember her being up and getting ready for the day.

>> but you remembered it on the day of her funeral, right, three days later. and since that time you have said over and over and over again that your mother was feeling great, there was no problems on april 11th .

>> the implication? if michele was feeling sick , just before she died there could be a medical explanation for her death and that alexis ' memory was flexible.

>> i just don't remember her feeling sad at all. she was feeling great.

>> there are a lot of things you don't remember in this case, right?

>> and then the defense honed in on the biggest problem. here they were prosecuting a man for murder when according to the state's own medical examiner the cause of death was most likely heart disease . coroner dr. todd grey admitted on the stand he never classified michele 's death as a homicide. and that even his decision to call it undetermined was not exactly based on science.

>> you met with the investigators in your office, correct?

>> yes, that is correct.

>> and they worked hard to try and persuade you to change it?

>> they gave me an extensive, in-depth presentation as to what they thought proved this was a homicide.

>> and then they took an unusual step of hiring an outside medical expert to bolster the case for homicide, the defense showed on cross-examination he was no more definitive.

>> when you consider all of the circumstances of this case, you still conclude that the manner of michele macneill 's death is undetermined?

>> yes, sir.

>> thank you.

>> and remember that water in michele 's lungs, defense co-counsel randy spencer had an answer for that, too.

>> michele was found in the bathtub and it's very difficult to do cpr in a bathtub.

>> so why didn't he pull her out of the tub?

>> he couldn't. barring some god-given grant of superhuman strength, very few people would be able to lift 182-pound person out of the tub in that situation.

>> just in that moment, regardless of what else he may have done, that morning what was the strongest evidence that he did not kill his wife?

>> i think that the strongest evidence was likely the time of death and where martin was that morning.

>> please raise your right hand and be sworn.

>> the defense called witnesses who testified that they saw martin right about the time that michele collapsed in her bathtub. in other words, he wasn't there, couldn't have killed her. this is 6-year-old ada macneill 's kindergartner teacher.

>> and mr. macneill picked her up that day?

>> yes.

>> and he was there between 11:30 and 11:35 to pick up ada?

>> yes.

>> and all of those competing facts took closing arguments to put them together. the prosecutor was aggressive.

>> make no doubt, he intentionally and knowingly caused the death of his wife. the oefd evidence supports it. the motive is there. it's dripping. the means are there. and the opportunity is there.

>> and the defense had to concede, martin was a cad and a cheat. but to prove there was a murder, let alone that martin committed it --

>> i submit to you that none of the circumstances that the prosecution has submitted to you is consistent with homicide. they don't rise to the level of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt .

>> and then the jury began deliberating. they huddled hour after hour late into that friday night. midnight came and went. they were still talking.

>> the longer the deliberations went, the more worried i got.

>> quick deliberations the better?

>> in this particular case, i thought so because our face was fairly simple.

>> then, after 11 hours, the signal, a verdict. too quick, thought the prosecutor.

>> when they were coming back after 11 hours, i was a little bit nervous.

>> it was 1:00 in the morning last saturday.

>> we the jury, having reviewed the evidence of testimony in the case find the defendant as to count one, guilty of murder.

>> and michele 's family couldn't hide their relief. finally, after years of fighting, they had gotten what they wanted, what they demanded. but until that moment, martin 's defense attorneys believed, perhaps more than martin himself, that he would be acquitted.

>> i think martin took it better than we did. he's like, i'm okay. and i was thinking, i'm not okay.

>> and then according to defender randy spencer, martin said something quite remarkable.

>> this may seem strange, but he even respects what his daughters did. not because he killed his wife but because if they really believed that he killed his wife, he would expect them to advocate for her. and sew understands --

>> he told you that?

>> he did. yeah.

>> and now, because his daughters advocated for michele , martin macneill will go to prison, perhaps for the rest of his life.

>> we're just so happy he can't hurt anyone else . we miss our mom. we'll never get her back. but that courtroom was full of so many people who loved my mom.

>> do you feel you finally got justice?

>> there was justice for my mom today.

>> that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll be back again friday at 8:00, 7:00 central. don't forget to tune in tomorrow morning for "today." i'm lester holt . for all of us at nbc news, good night.